Sunday, March 2, 2014

Chaayos - A Cup of Tea in Gurgaon

Let me just say it - I'm a sucker for coffee shops. I love them and I will gladly spend a lot of money for the joy of sitting on a cozy couch by the window with a steaming hazelnut cappuccino on the table, a book in my hand, and the smell of fresh coffee beans in the air. Back in the day (yes, I am now old enough to use phrases like that and I'm learning to enjoy this privilege) when Barista had just opened and the 35 buck cappuccino was still considered insanely overpriced, my friends would joke that they could get me to do anything for a trip to the Barista in Vasant Vihar. They were right. They could. And I would. And now, many years later, although I'm no longer a fan of Barista, I can still be very easily persuaded to drop everything important and traipse off for my daily caffeine fix to a new cafe.

But while I am happy to pay for the coffee and the coffee shop experience, what makes me really mad about a typical cafe like Barista or Cafe Coffee Day or Starbucks is the tea they serve you. It's always ridiculously overpriced for what you get - which is a cup of boiling water with a tea bag in it. How can you pay over a hundred bucks for a cup of water with a tea bag in it?! Most of them aren't even exotic sounding teas like Champagne Rose or Lapsang Souchong - they're just plain old Twining or Taaza type of tea bags. So: no, I do not like tea in coffee shops.

That's where Chaayos comes in. It's a tea shop! A real tea shop where you can get a cup of your home style tea that is made in front of you in a saucepan with tea leaves and milk and adrak and tulsi and elaichi and whatever else you want. We went to a Chaayos outlet in Galleria over the weekend. (It's on the first floor, somewhere above Khan Chacha). The ambience is not very coffee shop like - no comfy couches, no people on their laptops, no college kids playing the guitar, etc. It's just a small place with 2-3 small tables (although there is more, similar seating one level above too) and it's not set up for you to linger there with a book. You'd probably go there to grab a snack and a cup of tea with a friend or pick up tea to go as you walk around the market.

The tea itself is very, very nice. They have a lot of options - there are up to twelve basic add-ons like ginger, elaichi, cinnamon, tulsi, etc. that you can request for in your choice of desi or kadak chai. I went out on a limb and tried desi chai with ginger, elaichi, and a green chilli! Turned out to be a very good idea - it's so odd, I'd never thought of it before. You can't really taste the hari mirch, but it gives you a little kick at the back of your throat. Kind of like a chilli hot chocolate (another amazing combination).

In addition to the regular tea, they have a bunch of different stuff like kahwa and even an aam papad flavoured tea (which I might try next time, given the success of the hari mirch one!) There's a regular snacks menu with some interesting sounding things like a maggi sandwich. I didn't try that though and I think I'd rather stick with a chai and rusk combo.

The best part? The tea is 40 bucks! Some of the more exotic stuff costs more, but even the most expensive tea on the menu was Rs. 84. Much better value for money than the 100 rupee hot water at Barista, especially since you're really getting the home made chai ka mazaa.

I will definitely go there again, if not to hang out, but certainly to pick up my hot chai to sip as I walk around Galleria - which is one of the most fun things to do on a free morning in Gurgaon.

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